Hot Trot 5k

Ran to the art museum for my warm up. Wasn’t planning on doing any strides but I was eyeing up the women who were showing up and I thought “damn, I wish I had trained for this race. I feel like I could have placed, and it would be a fun race to do well in” I decided to do 2-3 strides since I was feeling antsy, and to be honest I wasn’t even sure if my legs knew how to turn over anymore. Lined up at the front and blew past the first woman (very small race, especially for the art museum, probably less than 50 people total). I remember feeling really good, and being surprised that I was hanging with the lead men despite having not trained for this race. “This is going great!” I thought to myself, then I remember that we hadn’t even hit the first mile yet… I looked down at my watch as some guy I was doing strides with came up behind me (he obviously knew not to take it out too fast), we were going to hit the first mile at about 6 min pace. “What time are you going for?” I asked him. “Idk,” he said smirking, he had an accent I couldn’t place, “hopefully sub 18? If the wind isn’t too bad.” Great. I thought in my head – I knew I shouldn’t be feeling this bad if I wanted to run anywhere near that time as my legs were only feeling heavier as we approached the halfway point. After the turn-around, I passed by the other runners in the race coming in the other direction, as well as the second woman. Despite my legs feeling bad I still felt really encouraged by the runners yelling, “you’re number 1!! Go first woman!” I thought about all I’ve learned this past year and if it’s anything at all, it’s to be in and enjoy the moment. “This could be one of the last times someone cheers ‘ you’re number one ! ‘ to me” I thought (actually, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had anyone cheer that to me…). I cheered back to them and tried to pass the guy next to me who was also slowing down and clearly struggling (I did not). I passed by the man who led the first 2 miles of the race since he randomly started walking.. kind of weird. Then I looked down at my watch and realized that I might not break 20 – which was secretly a goal I had hoped for this race (although I wanted to be strict with myself that this was not at the expense of me going kamikaze-style on this race, since it was just for “fun”). I kept looking at my watch thinking it would make the time go by quicker (which is not what I usually do, especially when it’s time to concentrate and bring it home) and I remember the pavement feeling not so great on my legs. My lungs and turnover were fine, it was just the pounding which I was not used to. I crossed the finish line, said “Fuck that.” picked up my 2 medals *they gave out finisher medals for this race, which I thought was interesting.. my prize for first was getting a duplicate of the same exact medal, which I thought was pretty funny* and then jogged home, chugged a chocolate milk, and met up with my aquajogging buddy for donuts. Definitely one of my most memorable races so far, not just because it’s been such a long time since I’ve run a race, or because I did end up officially breaking 20 by just a hair, but it was one of the first races where I accepted the fact I had not trained, would probably run slow, but would still be proud of myself and enjoy it, despite a potentially bad outcome. I really felt in the moment and loved every minute of it (esp. the donuts).

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Some Things I Learned After my 1st Year as a Ph.D. Student

Currently, I am enrolled in a lengthy (and incredibly expensive – as my advisor loves to remind me on a weekly basis) Ph.D. program at Villanova University.

Some kids grow up wanting to be astronauts, or dancers. I grew up wanting to get a Ph.D.

Maybe it’s because I thought that’s just what you do after college, since both my parents did their Ph.D.’s at Columbia University shortly after graduating. That’s where they met, fell in love, and have always talked about that time as if it was some sort of special life-defining era unparalleled to any experience they have had during their undergraduate education. In other words, they knew how to sell it to me.

It wasn’t easy for me to get here – I had a really low GPA in college, I’m talking B’s and C’s and the occasional D. Nothing completely unheard of for an engineering student but nothing that was going to have colleges wanting to spend tens-of-thousands of dollars on me to be in their programs.

I spent two years working for a guy at CHOP who claimed he was going to get me into UPenn. I found out later this dude had as much power to get me into UPenn as I do to get my dog to stop shitting in the middle of the street whenever I use the crosswalk.

After realizing my hard work to get noticed by this guy for two years was a complete and utter waste, I left the job after he threatened to fire me for what felt like the 10 millionth time. He immediately offered me a new position, which I turned down, saying with complete sincerity: “I want to thank you Hao, for everything you have taught me.”

Kind of got off on a tangent there. This post isn’t about my old boss, or about my struggles to get into a program (which I finally did – HUGE shout out to Villanova for giving this incredibly mediocre student a second chance) Instead, I feel like since I’m nearing the end of my first year (currently procrastinating on my Machine Learning final as we speak) I wanted to bookmark this year (and all subsequent years of my hopefully *just* 4-year program) in a nice little blog post so I can reflect back on all my thoughts and feelings during this “journey.”

Without further delay, here is a list of things I have learned after completing my first-year as a PhD student:

You are, and forever will be, somebody’s bitch.

Becoming a Ph.D. candidate is signing a contract telling your school, advisor, and janitor that cleans the halls in the evening, that you will sacrifice a limb to make sure whatever mediocre task you’ve been assigned to gets done. Being a first-year student you will have labmates who are older and smarter than you, who will also be needing you to their bitch-work as well. Science is a team effort – and it turns out that 90% of that team are either data-processing, pipetting, or dissecting mice. Every person knows more than you, since they’ve been there longer, and therefore their ideas are more important. You is not special, you is not kind, you is not important.

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Me and my advisor – little do I know he’s about to take over my life

I’m convinced that one of my advisor’s favorite hobbies is to call me 5 PM on a Friday to ruin my weekend. I won’t harp on this too much but it’s well known in academia that a certain amount of “hazing” occurs with every Ph.D. student, since those before them have gone through it themselves. If you’re not consistently stressed out, anxious, or depressed, you’re probably doing it wrong.

It’s never about the research.

I got into this because I love science! Right? Wrong. Ph.D.’s exist to make the school look good. Our research is contingent on next years funding, next year’s funding depends on whether or not people care about our research, in order for people to care, the school needs to look good… annnd now we’ve come full circle. The school is investing a great deal of money on you, and they expect miracles in return.

There have been many moments when I’ve had what I humbly believe to be a genius idea on how we could collaborate with outside sources to make our research impactful. I was immediately shot down, since it turns out you could have the cure for cancer, but if that means sharing your ideas (which have now become “academic property”) with another school and potentially downplaying any credit, then forget about it.

Three lines of code can either make or break your day.

This might just apply to me because I suck at coding.

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Via my ENGR 8311 final exam, the caption reads: “The boundary layer was drawn in to where I image it would be if I knew how to plot it from the fitcsvm.m output”

Don’t try to date another Ph.D.

You’ll spend the whole time complaining about how much work you have to do, how broke you are, and how your undergraduate RA never does exactly what you tell them to. You will both overthink and overanalyze everything, will both have a minor case of anxiety/depression, and will both be so into their research that you’ll argue about who will get to spend the night talking about growing cells in a Petri dish. Which brings me to my next point…

No one cares about your research but you.

Seriously, even other science majors. You could be talking to Bill Nye the fucking Science Guy but I guarantee that he will not be as interested as you.

It’s hard to have perspective when you’re deep into science land but believe it or not there’s a whole world out there that does not want to hear about the contrast you achieved on your T1-images after hours of running simulations. The weird part is that when you’re truly invested in your projects, it feels like everyone else should be interested… But caring about things outside of science is definitely a healthy and necessary thing to do.img_5267.jpg

 

 

ah-gong

My grandpa couldn’t speak a word of English – but he loved the Yankees. He was always watching their games on the small television he kept in his room, and never missed a single one.

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Sometimes I would go in his room, plop down on the floor, and ask to watch cartoons. Even in the middle of the game – he always switched it off and handed me the remote.

 

 

What I’ve Learned From Injury

Around time last year I became injured training for Broad Street. Right before my injury I was in great shape – running better times than I had ever before, and excited to run a fast race on the all downhill course through Philly. About a week before the actual race I was on a normal run on the Schukyll when I felt something funny in my ankle. I was forced to stop and walk back to campus.

Back at home I texted my coach to tell him the sobering news. “You’re okay Jen,” he reassured me, “take it easy the rest of the day and tomorrow see how it feels.”

“You got it, I’ll ice, elevate, and use compression. I’ll stretch, foam roll, and even drive to class instead of walk.”

Fast-forward six hours to the end of my night class: I waited until everyone had left the room and I sat alone in the dark as the motion detecting lights gave out, not wanting my classmates to see me limp. I slowly stood up, and staggered as my ankle took weight.

The next day I had an X-Ray, no stress fracture. That was all I needed to hear to try to continue to train, convinced the pain was all in my head. “Pain only hurts,” I would tell myself.

Then began my first experiences with physical therapy. I started going three times a week. I would walk the two miles from my apartment to the PT office. Sometimes I would walk so slowly it would take me thirty minutes to an hour. The worst part is that I would still try running (something like 5-6 miles), feel great afterwards, only to later wake up in the middle of the night with my ankle throbbing. In one of my more humbling moments I crawled to the bathroom on my hands and knees.

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Fast-forward 4 weeks into physical therapy – little to no improvement – and Broad Street was long bagged. All I wanted was to run.

This round of injuries, I’ve done away with all that. I’m not saying physical therapy was a waste of time, I learned a lot and the exercises they helped me with were definitely worthwhile and good for my overall muscular health and fitness, but I was obsessively trying to do too much. I would ice three times a day. If you calculate walking time I spent around 3 hours a day dedicated to my ankle injury, wondering what I could do to make it better, wondering what I was doing wrong. Pretty sure in psychology they call it: locus of control (defined: the extent to which individuals believe they can control events affecting them).

I remember going to a physical therapy appointment one day, and next to me was a man who was having trouble with his eyesight after a car accident. This man could not see, and I was having difficulty with the concept that I wasn’t running as fast or as long as I had been before.

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Really the thing that takes care of an injury (or anything) is time. If KT Tape, electrical stimulation, acupuncture, and those crazy ass orthotics that make you feel like you replaced your shoes for bricks actually worked, then we would have a lot less injured runners and a lot more people breaking world records because of steady uninterrupted progressive training.

…that may not be completely true – but that’s the story I’d like to tell myself. As much as my injury sucked, the emotional turmoil from constantly worrying about it made the recovery process that much worse.

I’m still one of the worst runners when it comes to injury. I usually spend a solid 2 or 3 weeks in denial, which usually sets back my recovery even longer. I’m slowly learning to listen to my body; pain is a receptor in our brain telling us something is wrong. There’s no point in fighting it, but rather be grateful for it – it’s there to tell us when to rest so that we can come back stronger rather than broken. Listen to it, do not let it control you, but be brave enough to have faith that things will work out on their own time.

As the great Albus Dumbledore once said,

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Disclaimer: I’m not saying KT tape, icing, stim, etc. are not worth doing, especially if you have found something that works for you. I’m just writing about my own experiences. These opinions do not reflect that of the running community at large.

Pizza Garden, and Other Things I’ve Been Doing/Eating

This is the story about how I tried a green juice and it tasted like a pizza garden…

That’s it really. I had a green juice sample they were giving away at my spin class, it had basil, lettuce, kale and maybe some fertilizer thrown in there. I like to eat all of those things rather than drink them so I pretty much knew that green juice was never going to be for me. I did try the other green juice that had apple, ginger, and orange in it and it was significantly better, so maybe I’ll give juice another chance – but probably not.

This is what it tasted like but in juice form:

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Haven’t actually tried this yet but it’s in my fridge waiting patiently.

Today at Trader Joe’s three of the workers stopped me to ask me my name because I go there so much. Their names were Mike, Juvon, and John. As I was checking out:

Cashier: (in reference to how much food I was buying) I guess you ran out of food at home

Me: No… no I did not.

And that’s how you stay famous at Trader Joe’s.

Pesto is basically the only thing, outside of things that have tomatoes and cheese involved, that basil should be in.

I know this blog is about running but since I’m mostly injured right now there’s very little for me to say on that subject. Instead I’ll include a picture of me wearing personal protective equipment:

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I literally take this picture every time I have the gloves and face mask on (about 2x a month).

This cycle of injuries has been more bearable than in the past because I’ve managed to stay busy enough not to hurt myself more (kind of). I finally debugged three lines of code that have been eating away at me since Christmas:

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Yay?

In the words of DJ Khaleed referring to his 22 day vegan challenge: “I’m challenging myself to be greater.” Follow him on snapchat! Best decision of my life.

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Why I Didn’t Boycott Erin Express This Year

It’s that magical time in Philadelphia where you can go out onto the street at 8 AM absolutely plastered and not have people think you are an alcoholic. Two weekends before St. Patrick’s Day the bars open up early and offer free bus shuttles that bring you from one drinking destination to the next. I love Erin Express. Being a morning person this is the one time of year that I’m able to go out and party with my friends without being ridiculously tired because it’s past 9 PM. I usually spend most of the morning pre-gaming at someone’s house, and in the four consecutive years that I’ve participated I’ve never made it on the bus and onto the next bar.

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Erin Express 2013

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Erin Express 2014

This year having graduated, my initial plan was to boycott EE. I had procrastinated on my homework throughout the week (per usual) and was still nursing a lingering compensation injury that developed in my left calf. I woke up early and went to a spin class with plans of homework in the afternoon. But as I was leaving my spin class I heard a whisper from the morning sky, it was the Philly gods and they whispered “go to E E”

Maybe it was the green shoes.

So I did, I got in the shower and headed out into the beer-soaked air to join the crowds of people already way too intoxicated for 10 AM, or 10 PM for that matter. I don’t know why I love Erin Express so much, usually it’s not difficult for me to turn down partying in favor of other endeavors, especially when it’s warranted by a heavy workload and an injury, but Erin Express is different.

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Erin Express 2015

Maybe this was my last one – or maybe I’ll become one of those ladies at the bar 40 years from now that everyone’s a little sad for – it doesn’t matter.

I like that there’s no real rhyme or reason behind it, so for that reason I enjoy participating. Also I don’t usually wear green – so I thought “this might be my only chance.”

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EE 2016: Incidentally, this year I did not wear green.

In other news the lady who runs my lab is having me look after her plants and fill the giant 9.4 T magnet with liquid nitrogen while she is away.

When I went to fill the magnet on Monday, I started to push the tank and it sprung a leak filling the room with a cold fog. I immediately panicked, in fear of the magnet getting too warm and quenching. I called in random people from the hallway and got them involved, I sent out emails to anyone I thought could help with the subject “EMERGENCY”. Turns out there was no issue – those tanks leak all the time, and everything was fine.

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Filling the tank Friday – completely normal.

This brings me to another one of life’s great lessons: when you’re freaking out that your tank of liquid N2 has sprung a leak, you should probably just go and water your plants.

 

 

Pilot Post – How to Have a Dog in College (Grad School)

Hi, this blog was created so that I could have something to do to procrastinate on homework other than scrolling through my Instagram feed.

If I was a website, and you could view my FAQs, all of my top questions would be on how to have a dog while being a normal person in college.

First let me preface this by saying I am in no means a “normal” college student. I go to bed at 9:30 PM (sometimes 9) and wake up around 6 AM. I have been doing this ever since my freshman or sophomore year and have never looked back. I wouldn’t say this grandma status is ideal for partying and bar hopping – and because of this schedule I absolutely hate brunch.

Anyway… how to have a dog in college:

Realize that you are volunteering yourself up to be home everyday at 5 PM for the next 8 – 12 years

Want to go out for happy hour after work? Nope, better get used to missing out on half priced drinks and tapas. Need to stay an extra hour to finish some lab experiments? I guess your experiments will fail because studies have shown that dogs need food to live.

Don’t get a dog

If any part of step 1 gives you pause, maybe wait a few years before you can make the commitment. Dogs will most likely be as cute as they are now in 2-3 years when you’re out of school

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Make sure to wash your dog so it looks sad and uncomfortable.

 

Learn how to walk down the street and avoid eye contact with every person that passes you

For some reason when you are walking a dog a lot of people want to smile and pet it – I did this too before I actually got one. Stopping for each person is not only incredibly time consuming but your dog will begin to think every person passing is a person wants to pet it and be annoying to walk

Become unattached to your worldly possessions

Glasses, underwear, knitting needles. Security deposit? Who needs that anyway.

Be prepared to never feel alone

This can either be good or bad (although it’s usually good). Sometimes I spend a whole day with my dog and I start to imagine him talking to me telling me I need to get out more.

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Your dog will not improve your GPA, but C’s get degrees.

Don’t care about other peoples opinions about your dog

I didn’t ask anyone (not even my parents – surprise mom and dad!) about what kind of dog I should get or how I should train it. It’s my dog I’m the one who has to clean up after it. Seeking advice is good but really you just need to throw what other people say out the window. Watch the dog whisperer or something and don’t worry if your dog embarrasses you by acting like a complete idiot in public – as long as your at least trying to keep it under control. There are going to be mistakes (especially when they’re young).

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If your dog looks like this, you’re doing it wrong.